Pakistan should not gloat over the rise of extremist incidents in its neighboring nation.
The news coming out of India is not good. This is how an article in thewire.in begins: “Hindus need to worry. The Hindus of Dadri, Atali, Trilokpuri, Bawana, Muzaffanagar, Ranchi… the list is getting longer and longer. To make it even more precise, one should probably phrase it like this: Hindus everywhere in the world need to worry…”
The list refers to Hindu mob-violence against minorities, especially India’s Muslim community. But while we might have seen the frequency of such violence increase since the coming to power of Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister, the trend goes back: The 2008 Malegaon blast case, the Modasa blast in Gujarat, the Malegaon blast of 2006, the 2007 Makkah Masjid blast in Hyderabad and the horrific 2007 Samjhauta Express blast, which killed 68 passengers, including 48 Pakistanis.
Several Indian and other commentators, on TV and in writing, have wondered why Modi, digitally and directly never shy for words and taciturn, has remained silent over many of the recent incidents but most notably on the Dadri lynching. India, having elected Modi, a man with past record of getting Muslims killed on his watch with no remorse, is wondering why the man, now prime minister, is silent. In theater, this is called willing suspension of disbelief. In real sociopolitical life buffeted by multiple ideologies and informed by cynical politics, it’s called stupidity at its most stupid.
Earlier, in June this year, the 2008 Malegaon blast case public prosecutor, Rohini Salian, in an interview to The Indian Express, accused the National Investigation Agency and by extension the current Modi government, of asking her to ‘go soft’ on the accused, all Hindus and most of them also accused in other acts of terrorism, including the Samjhauta attack. The NIA has denied trying to influence the prosecutorial process but Salian, who has a long record as a prosecutor, told Indian TV channel NDTV that “I know my responsibility. I can prove what I have said about the NIA.”
What is interesting, according to thewire.in article—as also other reports in the Indian media—is the fact that “Salian’s sensational disclosure comes in the wake of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s refusal to appeal the discharge of BJP president Amit Shah in the murder of a young woman, Kauser-bi, her husband Sohrabuddin, and Tulsiram Prajapati. Shah had been indicted after the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to investigate the case. But last December, a CBI special court discharged Shah even before the trial had started. The agency has chosen not to appeal this ruling–highly unusual in a murder case–in the high court.”
Now, three months from her first disclosure, Salian, in an affidavit, has disclosed the name of the officer who asked her to ‘go soft’ on the Malegaon accused as Suhas Warke, a superintendent of police in the NIA.
Similarly, in August this year, the NIA decided to not challenge the conditional bail granted to Swami Aseemanad by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “The Union home ministry,” according to a report in The Times of India, “informed the Lok Sabha that the NIA, upon examining the feasibility of filing a special leave petition, found no grounds to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.”
The pattern appears very clear: the Modi government is not prepared to pursue terror cases involving the Hindu rightwing groups even as the cornerstone of its Pakistan policy is to reduce any engagement with Islamabad to merely talking about terror allegedly emanating from Pakistan.
But the issue that must vex discerning Indians—as it does—is the transformation of Indian society under Modi. It should also give cause to those analysts, generally secular, who, after Modi’s win, decided to hitch their wagons to Modi’s star, thinking perhaps that here is a man who will move on from his RSS politics to becoming India’s prime minister, a country vast and diverse, ethnically, religiously, linguistically and in many other ways. That hasn’t happened and no amount of building the Modi brand dealing with the outside world can put a salve on the injuries he is causing within the Indian body politic.
But while Modi and his politics are India’s domestic concern, there’s a lesson here for Pakistan. Keep an eye on India but don’t gloat over its extremist troubles. We have our own loonies after a similar process spread over four decades, a process that has transformed a people with big hearts into narrow, shallow bigots and lynch mobs. We are working toward cleansing ourselves of this cancer and we are dying in the process. It makes no sense for us to wish it on anyone else, especially on any neighbor.
And I say this both for the safety and security of India’s minorities as also for the security of Pakistan. In strategy, it’s always useful to take a longer-term view. Pakistan’s troubles with a truly secular India will not be automatically resolved but it is clearly easier to deal with rational actors running a state than irrational ones. India’s extremism is also a national security concern for Pakistan and, broadly, the region. It is terribly tempting to see India’s hubris run into the ground; it is equally, tactically, very satisfying to see India fracture along its many fault-lines. But does that give us strategic dividends in a world, and a region, that is fast headed towards chaos? As a student of strategy, my answer is no.
I know the counter arguments to my argument, the most important being that if India were to start fracturing, Delhi’s cleverly crafted ‘image’ to the outside world will be severely damaged and that creates opportunities. Except, history is the story of the law of unintended consequences and once chaos is unleashed, it gathers its own momentum and then no one is in-charge.
Also, India, just like Pakistan, is resilient. Indians have always made the mistake of thinking that Pakistan could, would, come apart. Let’s not make the same mistake about India. We are large, we contain multitudes.
Haider is editor of national-security affairs at Capital TV. He was a Ford Scholar at the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. He tweets @ejazhaider